By Ram Puniyani, 08 February, 2007, Countercurrents.org
Perzania, a film based on a true story in the backdrop of Gujarat violence, sensitively portraying the plight of a Parsi family, whose son goes missing during the carnage, was released all over the country barring Gujarat. Earlier to this, another film, Fanaa starring Amir Khan, who personally sympathized openly with the plight of those displaced due to the Narmada dam project, could also not be screened in Gujarat. What is the social and political scenario as we are just a month away from the fifth anniversary of Godhra train accident and the Gujarat carnage?
Gujarat carnage was very different from the communal violence which took place in Independent India so far. Here one could most clearly see the well planned violence unleashed on the pretext of Godhra train accident, duly supported by the state Government under the patronizing eye of the central government. While every possible rule of the law was violated by the authorities, the hapless victims were left to rot in the refugee camps with atrocious living conditions, totally ignored by the state government. The mirror of Gujarat's dominant social thinking was to come to light soon with the winning of elections by Narendra Modi, who had played central role in the violence. What has been happening in the social milieu of Gujarat is beyond belief as far as the democratic norms and the communal amity is concerned.
One has witnessed that the process of deliverance of justice, remains unexecuted. Many a people under different types of pressure could not lodge their complaints, many a times it was made as a condition for their return to their homes. Many an FIRs were not filed, the victims of the riots are gripped by the losses of lives and property in mammoth proportions, while the perpetrators of crime are moving with great pride in having taught 'them' a lesson. Those arrested for Godhra train burning are rotting in jails with the POTA charges on them. Barring the cases like those of Zahira with different twists and turns, most other wronged ones are living the constant agony and pain of what they had to face. The role and attitude, impartiality, of sections of judiciary has also come under severe doubts
Added to that is the alienation, social boycott and the ghettotisaztion of Muslim minorities, which has been set very deeply in the aftermath of carnage. One can see the areas marked by religious denominations getting converted into geographic dividing lines. Once the hatred crosses the threshold limits it creates the wedge which becomes unbridgeable over a period of time. And that's what one sees in the social milieu of Gujarat. The pattern of life amongst large sections has changed, and the constant harping on identity, first that of religion and later that of caste has been the logical corollary of the hate ideology which is ruling the roost.
Over fifty thousand families are living in the poorly maintained rehabilitation colonies totally deprived of the basic facilities. The subtle intimidation of Muslim majority is supplemented by the attacks on Christian missionaries and also by the holding of events like Shabri Kumbh to co-opt the Adivasis into the Hindu fold, at the same time changing the terms of social reference, from the ones of development to the ones of identity issues is there for all to see. The social common sense in Gujarat in particular, has been taken to the insane heights where every issue becomes a ground for further intensifying the hatred against minorities.
The dominant social opinion may have some dissenting voices which may feel the present brusque anti-minoritism will spoil the business atmosphere in Gujarat but the large sections of middle class sees Modi as a protector of Hindus. Two set of laws already seem to be in operation, the ones for majority and the other for the minorities. Intolerance directed to 'external enemy' does not stop there. It does come back to majority as well and the sharpened religious identity leads to the caste and other narrow identities becoming stronger by the day, and that's what Gujarat is witnessing today. The very air is becoming heavy with the intolerance, which is the basic credo of Gujarat society today. It also does manifest itself in the people like Babu Bajrangi who are openly flaunting the laws and acting as moral police, intimidating; beating up young couples; with full patronage from the ruling party and associated affiliates, who emboldened by the power and ideology of sectarianism are out to abolish the democratic and liberal space, which is the hall mark of any open society.
The image of a vibrant Gujarat is being strengthened through media, a section of which played a were compliant and supportive role to the agenda of Hindu Rashtra. The overt violence is not there but covert violence and deepening of sectarianism is the order of the day. What is Fascism? It is not a mere academic debate. When state, in connivance with dominant sections of society, is out to bury the norms of liberal and plural values, when the dominant section of society approve this intolerance for 'others' and than for 'our' dissenting people, the fascism is there. The fate of Fanaa and Perzania are the mere symptoms of the piercing trishuls of RSS ideology stalking the streets and bastis of Gujarat. It is a state where the social activists can be beaten up right in Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram, a place where non violence and dissent had been propagated as the basic norm for creating a democratic society. While Modi has 'successfully' deflected the criticism of his policies as an insult of Gujarat, the matters become difficult for those who will like to uphold the gains of our freedom movement, for those who will regard all people of India as equals, irrespective of their religion.
The processes going in Gujarat are a definite pointer towards "Hindu Rashtra in One state", an Indian variant of Fascism. While looking forward to the change in the turn of the tide in anticipation of the fifth anniversary of the genocide, one hopes the worst is over and the society at large will not only welcome Perzania with open eyes and mind but will also revive the humane spirit of the Indian nationalism.